Monday

16th May 2022

EU and Russia tackle thorny issues at Samara summit

EU leaders and Russia's Vladimir Putin discussed worsening bilateral relations at an informal dinner in the Volzhsky Utyos health spa near Samara on Thursday (17 May) evening, with energy, human rights and Kosovo on the official agenda for Friday.

"It's always good to speak to each other rather than talking about each other," German chancellor Angela Merkel said arriving at the venue, AFP reports. "I came here with this spirit of defending European interests in that sense of solidarity," European Commission boss Jose Manuel Barroso said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

  • The Samara meeting has seen one of the most tense build-ups to an EU-Russia summit for years (Photo: kremlin.ru)

Putin aide Sergei Yastrzhembsky tried to lighten the mood, saying "This conversation - in a relaxed atmosphere, with no protocol or time pressure - will allow both sides to exchange views on problems that they want to raise." The diplomat had earlier called reports of an EU-Russia crisis "exaggerated."

But EU member Estonia is still complaining of Russian cyber attacks on its government, media and banking websites, with NATO sending in experts to help out Tallinn. Lithuania is facing a Russian oil blockade and Latvia is saying it opposes Russia's Baltic Sea pipeline plan on environmental grounds.

Meanwhile, Poland continues to block talks on a new bilateral treaty due to a Russian ban on Polish food. The embargo was described as a type of "war" by Polish foreign minister Ana Fotyga on Thursday and the EU has hinted it may delay Russia's WTO accession due to Moscow's trade actions.

On energy, EU leaders plan to ask Putin to help set up a "consultation mechanism" to prevent supply shocks. They will seek assurances no new legislation or "flanking policies" - like sudden environmental or tax problems - will be used to squeeze EU energy investors in Russia.

Ms Merkel and Mr Barroso have also promised to voice EU concern about worsening repression ahead of Russian elections next year. Newswires say several opposition leaders were arrested Thursday en route to Samara, where up to 1,000 people are expected to gather on Friday in a protest already ruled illegal.

On foreign policy - to be discussed over the final lunch - Brussels will make a last ditch attempt to bring Moscow on board with a US and EU draft UN resolution to give independence to Kosovo. Mr Putin on Tuesday brushed off similar calls from the US' Condoleezza Rice on her visit to Moscow.

The EU will voice disappointment over Russia's role in Europe's "frozen conflicts." Brussels is annoyed about Russia's secret deal-making with Moldova outside EU-participation multilateral structures. It also shares Georgia's concern about Russian support for rebels in the South Caucasus.

The traditional press conference, shortly after noon, is unlikely to be able to deliver even a basic agreement on Siberian overflight fees for EU airlines, after Russia pulled back from the deal earlier this week. But EU officials hope that warm words and smiles could improve the climate for future talks.

"Russia continues to fall short of its respect for democratic values, human rights and rule of law...as well as market economy principles," an internal EU paper on the summit's "main deliverables" says. "It has become increasingly assertive on the international scene, making use of its leverage as a major energy supplier."

"The Kremlin is reversing all the achievements of the glasnost era," Human Rights Watch director Holly Cartner said in a statement, after the NGO's people were prevented from coming to the summit venue. Amnesty International head Dick Oosting said "the EU must stand up to Russia to stop things getting from bad to worse."

UK says 'no choice but to act' over post-Brexit trade rules

British foreign secretary Liz Truss said the UK has "no choice but to act" on the Northern Ireland protocol governing post-Brexit trade during a call with EU Commission vice-president Maroš Šefčovič — who warned unilateral action was "simply not acceptable".

UK threatens to scrap post-Brexit trade deal

The UK rejected proposals by the EU to tweak the protocol governing trade in Northern Ireland, and has threatened to suspend the rules as loyalists lost their majority in the Northern Ireland elections.

Syria donor conference shuns Russia

Russia was not invited to an international donor conference on Syria in Brussels given its war in Ukraine. Moscow had also recently threatened to veto a humanitarian corridor from Turkey to Syria.

Opinion

Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?

Valdimir Putin's equivalent to Nato — the Collective Security Treaty Organization of Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Belarus — is convening in Moscow next week to give cover that Russia is not alone in its war against Ukraine.

Opinion

Is EU 'Horizon' science funding going towards Pegasus spyware?

MEPs have raised questions about the involvement of the EU — through its funding — in the development of the Israeli NSO Pegasus software, directly or indirectly, which has been used to target activists and journalists in Europe.

News in Brief

  1. German ruling party in regional election blow
  2. EU expanding arms-for-Ukraine programme
  3. Reports: EU drafts plans for Russia energy payments
  4. Pro-Russian hackers targeted Eurovision
  5. EU to donate extra €400m for Africa vaccines rollout
  6. Spain plans five-days 'menstrual leave' and to ease abortion rules
  7. MEPs reject proposal for stricter 2030 target on cars and vans
  8. Study: EU spent €341m on AI border technology

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  3. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  4. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersHuge support for Ukraine
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBWorkers want EC to limit subcontracting chains in construction

Latest News

  1. Sweden to join Finland in applying for Nato
  2. Russia sanctions and energy dominate Next WEEK
  3. Will 'Putin's Nato' follow Warsaw Pact into obscurity?
  4. EU reaches deal on flagship cybersecurity law
  5. EU to help Ukraine export grain — amid food shortages fears
  6. Revealed: Big Oil shaped EU's gas-cutting strategy
  7. EU: Ukrainians hesitating to register for protection
  8. UK says 'no choice but to act' over post-Brexit trade rules

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us